Michael Pavitt

An installation outside the Sydney 2000 Olympic Stadium is claimed to represent the densely packed crowds which inhabited the Olympic Park during the Games.

This was certainly not the case 18 years on, as I was possibly the only person on the one-stop train from Lidcombe into Olympic Park Station.

Walking out of the station you are greeted with the site of the Olympic Stadium, which for sponsorship reasons is called ANZ Stadium.

The arena was originally built to temporarily hold 110,000 spectators, making it the largest Olympic Stadium ever built, but it was ultimately reduced to 80,000 after the Games.

Given that it was completed in 1999, it came as no surprise that the venue still had the look of a modern facility. It made it all the more surprising that there have been discussions over its future in recent months.

In November, the New South Wales Government proposed that the stadium be demolished and rebuilt as a 75,000 seater facility.

The plans were ultimately shelved after a backlash against the move, including an online petition which was set up to oppose the plan.

On my brief jaunt around and without knowing how well the stadium operates, my gut feeling was that was quite a sensible decision in the end.

A Forest of Poles recognises the volunteers who contributed to the Games ©ITG
A Forest of Poles recognises the volunteers who contributed to the Games ©ITG

It is also impossible to miss the "Games Memories" installation, which is also dubbed the "Forest of Poles", and consists of around 480 cylinders. The forest is aimed at paying tribute to each of the volunteers involved in the Games, listed in alphabetical order. It would appear to be an excellent monument to visit for a volunteer in the future with their family, where they can point out their involvement.

There are also a sequence of poles explaining the development of Sydney's Games, from the bid phase through to ultimately delivering the multi-sport event. Gold winning performances in the long jump and triple jump are highlighted. There is also a marking to represent the finish line for the marathon races.

As someone who did not attend the Games, which were the first Olympics I remember, I was struck by just how closely located many of the Games venues were to each other. Venues for athletics, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, hockey and tennis are among those located just a stone's throw away from the stadium.

You can take a short walk from the stadium down Dawn Fraser Avenue - named after the four-time Olympic swimming champion - to the Olympic Aquatic Centre. On the trip down the road, you are greeted by logos of the Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games.

I imagine the installation of Rio 2016's logo has been, some might say fittingly, delayed.

Outside the venue, which was being used during my visit for the Australia Age Championships, you are greeted by a somewhat grubby pair of screens.

You have the opportunity to watch videos which look back on the Games, including footage of local programmes and clips of fan zones that were set up across the city.

Among the clips are interviews with some of the main protagonists, including Cathy Freeman discussing how she found out she would carry the Olympic Flame into the Opening Ceremony. This included mentions of her famous heat resistant suit and the glitch with the Olympic Cauldron which briefly halted its rise into its final location.

The Olympic Cauldron now stands as a water fountain in Cathy Freeman Park ©ITG
The Olympic Cauldron now stands as a water fountain in Cathy Freeman Park ©ITG

Its current location is the Cathy Freeman Park to the right of the Olympic Stadium. Having been the home of the flame during the Games, it is currently performing essentially the opposite role as a water fountain.

The fountain is surrounded by myriad of names on the floor of winners of medals from the Games, complete with gold, silver and bronze colours. The list includes two International Olympic Committee members.

One of which is World Rowing President Jean-Christophe Rolland, who won gold in the men's coxless pairs event with Michel Andriex.

The other is another Frenchman who thrived in a water sport. I wonder if canoeist Tony Estanguet has any Olympic based plans for the coming years…

The cauldron-turned fountain is a very nice monument to the Games, complete with the names of almost every medallist from Sydney 2000.

When I say almost, there was one name I could not find among the list. That was of American cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was ultimately stripped of his bronze medal from the men's individual time trial.

His name was replaced, it would seem relativity recently, by a blank slab.

Lance Armstrong's name was replaced with a blank slab on the list of medal winners ©ITG
Lance Armstrong's name was replaced with a blank slab on the list of medal winners ©ITG 

It just goes to show that even the monuments to the Games cannot escape from the scourge of doping. The inconsistency too was clear, given that the likes of Jan Ullrich and Alexander Vinokourov were names located close by to where Armstrong's once lay. The duo never saw their medals stripped, but doping offences came later in their careers.

My brief wander around did leave me wondering about whether it would be similar at future Olympic Parks.

Similarly to London 2012 and Rio 2016, there was a high concentration of venues within a very small radius. Given the drive for legacy and the use of existing facilities, could a major Olympic Park become a thing of the past?

Certainly it would help during the duration of the Games, as the Forest of Poles highlighted, with people all rushing towards one particular hive of activity. 

But does the model work post-Games, where these facilities are only concentrated in one particular community?